Citi had a challenge: they wanted to connect with professional women in a social media setting, in order to increase brand favorability. LinkedIn seemed the natural choice, though the level of success they achieved using the platform to build an engaged community is inspirational.

“Women are our most influential audience segment – anything we can do to engage with them online helps strengthen their awareness of our brand,” Linda Descano, CFA , Managing Director and Head of Digital Partnerships, Content and Social, North America Marketing, Citi; and President and CEO, Women & Co. said in a recent case study of this success. “After several years of success with Women & Co., we began looking for new ways to deepen this engagement.”

The avenue they would eventually pursue was a Managed Group on LinkedIn. Managed Groups are a LinkedIn service offering where the social network partners with brands to support their community building efforts. The brand becomes the “sponsor” of the group, which means they can leverage exclusive ad positions, drive engagement with weekly emails to their group members, and stay involved in the conversation with LinkedIn’s community management tools.

LinkedIn promises, “Choose to sponsor one of our existing Groups for key audiences and we’ll handle all management and moderation to ensure the highest possible engagement levels.”

This was the option Citi chose, and their Connect: Professional Women’s Network group worked out incredibly well for them. In just four months, they built their group to over 43,000 highly engaged members, 30-50% of whom returned each week. Their group experienced an engagement rate twice as high as the average group on LinkedIn and it was determined that the majority of members were top-level executives or women who owned their own business.

Citi uses LinkedIn Today: Professional Women to curate relevant news content and increase engagement for their group.

News content from the group is also shared with a special edition of LinkedIn Today – the site’s news product – called Special Edition: Professional Women. In addition, content on Connect generated over 17,800 discussion comments. So how did they do it?

Citi group and LinkedIn shared a number of valuable tips for LinkedIn marketers looking to build an engaged community on the professional social network:

  • Curate relevant content to start discussions. Citi seeded discussions with content from Women & Co., as well as other outlets.
  • Use polls to encourage feedback and drive comments in the group.
  • Reward group members for their participation. In this case, LinkedIn offered free premium subscription upgrades for the best new comments and discussions. Outside of a managed group, your brand can identify something of value to your members and use that to incentivize participation.
  • Use Sponsored InMails to drive group membership.
  • Add original video to your content mix. Citi created a series of videos highlighting successful women to drive engagement. Their most popular video, Get Connected, earned over 1,600 views.

Today, Citi’s Connect: Professional Women’s Network has ballooned to over 121,000 members. They continue to grow, attract new members, and engage their target audience with great content and fascinating discussions.

Are you participating in any LinkedIn Groups or using them for marketing? Share your thoughts in the comments!